Political and Economic Warfare
Political and Economic Warfare
S ince the French Revolution (1789–90), terrorism has most often been linked to the struggle for political and economic supremacy. The motivation of many terrorists has been to over-throw the established government. In countries that did not have democratic systems of government, some people felt that terrorism directed against the government was the only method of bringing about change. In other cases, attacks have been aimed against economic targets as a means of weakening the government. Even in countries that had elected legislatures, some people felt that the government was dedicated to preserving the interests of the wealthy, and that the working class had no voice or influence. In these cases, terrorism has been a form of revolution, seeking to overthrow the entire system of government, not just a particular official or policy.
Origins of terrorism
In 1789, a mob in Paris, France, stormed a prison called the Bastille (pronounced bas-TEEL) to seize weapons that were
Words to Know
- Absolute monarch:
- a ruler who is not controlled by law.
- a political belief system that maintains that people can govern themselves through voluntary associations without any formal government.
- the upper classes of a society.
- setting a fire with a criminal intent.
- the freedom to act independently.
- Civil rights:
- a movement in the 1960s to gain equal rights for African Americans.
- an economic system in which property is owned by the people but distributed by the state.
- Hippie movement:
- a group of young people during the 1960s who believed in complete personal freedom in social relationships.
- the king or queen of a country.
- a movement in Russia in the nineteenth century that believed terrorism was necessary to change the existing social order.
- poor farmers.
- Propaganda by deed:
- the practice of gaining publicity for a particular cause by committing acts that will draw the public's attention, such as terrorism.
- work stoppage by a group of workers in protest of business practices.
- Terroristic anarchism:
- the belief that workers should destroy government institutions through violence and terror.
- Voluntary association:
- the central concept of government in anarchism, which says that people should voluntarily form groups and agree to follow rules that they decide on for themselves.
- Workers' autonomy:
- a belief held by some communists that communist leaders should do what the workers want, rather than trying to persuade the workers to do what they want.
being stored there. They wanted to have a say in how France was governed and to end the king's absolute power over the French people. Four years later, in 1793, power was in the hands of a twelve-member Committee of Public Safety, led by Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794). From September 1793 until July 1794, these twelve men ran the government in a period now called the "Reign of Terror." Thousands of people were accused of "crimes against the Revolution" (such as helping to restore the king to power) and were sentenced to death. The king, Louis XVI (1754–1793), had already been beheaded in January 1793, followed ten months later by the beheading of his wife, Marie Antoinette (1755–1793). During the Reign of Terror, nearly three thousand people were executed in Paris and about fourteen thousand in the countryside. Men and women, rich and poor, young and old lived in fear. The Committee argued, "You must punish not merely traitors but the indifferent as well." In other words, simply not being an active supporter of the Revolution was a punishable offense. Eventually Robespierre himself was arrested and executed (on July 28, 1794), thus ending the Terror, but not the idea of it.
During the French Revolution, the government carried out terrorism in the name of democratic equality. The Jacobins, the political group led by Robespierre, believed strongly that the monarchy (the king) and the aristocracy (the upper classes of society, which controlled the government) had to be destroyed to create a truly equal society. These two ideas—that all people are equal, and that violence may be required to make society reflect that equality—were adopted by many terrorists in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The Luddites, economic warfare, and terrorism
While the French Revolution was changing the face of politics, a different sort of revolution was changing the face of English society: the Industrial Revolution. Starting around 1760, a series of new inventions began replacing human power with mechanical power. Jobs that had required skilled workers were now being done by machines. The impact of the Industrial Revolution was especially strong in the cloth-manufacturing, or textile, industry, where family-run spinning and weaving workshops were replaced by factories with large machines that could turn out more cloth more quickly. One person operating a new machine in a factory could do the work of several men and women operating hand-driven machines (such as spinning wheels and looms) at home. The nature of work changed enormously. Independent weavers could decide how many hours they would work, when they would start in the morning, and when they would stop in the evening. Under the new system, factory owners decided who would work, for how long, and for how much money. Anyone who did not like this system was replaced by another worker. The new machines required less skill to operate, and it was easy to find replacement workers.
Starting in early 1811, some textile workers in parts of England began to fight a system that had reduced the number of jobs and the level of pay for those workers who were still employed.
Owners of textile mills near Nottingham, England, began receiving letters from a "General Ned Ludd" (a made-up name) objecting to the loss of jobs and the use of unskilled workers. By March 1811 hardly a night went by without people breaking into a textile mill and smashing the new machines. The attackers, taking their name from "General Ludd," were called "Luddites."
Offering rewards for captured Luddites did not stop the destruction. In fact, Luddites soon began appearing in other towns. In February 1812 the British Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act, which made destroying textile machines a crime punishable by death. The government sent twelve thousand troops (an enormous number at that time) to protect machines in the areas where the Luddites were active.
On April 11, 1812, a group of workers attacked Rawfolds Mill in Brighouse, England. The owner, a man named William Cartwright, knew that many local workers had lost their jobs. Worried about the possibility of a Luddite raid, he had posted armed guards around the factory. In the attack, two Luddites were fatally wounded before they were driven back. A week later, another mill owner in the area, William Horsfall, was murdered. In response, more than one hundred workers were arrested and sixty-four were charged with crimes in connection with the attacks. Three men were eventually executed for murdering Horsfall, and fourteen others were hanged for attacking Rawfolds Mill. Still the attacks continued. On April 20, 1812, workers attacked a mill owned by Emanuel Burton near Manchester, England. Armed guards at the mill opened fire, killing three Luddites. The next day, workers returned and burned down Burton's house. Troops arrived, and seven more people were killed. In the same week, the Luddites set fire to another mill; a dozen men were arrested, and four were executed.
In the summer of 1812, after more executions and the exile (forced banishment) of some workers to Australia, the attacks on textile mills stopped. But the Luddites had gained a place in history. The term "Luddite" has survived as a description of anyone against technological progress.
The Luddites were one of the first groups to meet the modern definition of terrorists. They used violence (including murder) to try to force mill owners to give up new policies that were changing their way of life. Although later terrorist attacks were most often directed at governments rather than businesses, the Luddites showed that this need not be the case.
The social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution caused some people to think about other ways of organizing society. One such way was anarchism (pronounced AN-are-kiz-uhm), which in the second half of the nineteenth century was linked to bombings and political assassinations in Europe.
The term "anarchism" comes from the same root as "anarchy," which is usually taken to mean "disorder." But anarchism has a slightly different meaning. Anarchists believe that people can govern themselves through voluntary associations without any formal government. One example might be a church, which people join voluntarily and which has rules of conduct that members freely choose to obey. Under this system, residents of a town or small city might decide to set up some rules and services to make life more pleasant.
Anarchist philosophers of the time believed that government institutions, like the police and army, were tools of wealthy property owners: they were there to keep down poor factory and farm workers. At the time, tens of thousands of people had been forced by the changing society to move off small farms and into towns or cities, where they tried to find work in the new factories. Hours were long—twelve hours a day, six days a week—and pay was low. Modern benefits, such as health insurance or paid vacations, did not exist. Young children were also employed in mills and mines, partly because they would work for lower pay than adults.
Anarchists said their goal was to improve the conditions of workers. Some anarchists, such as the French writer Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), urged workers to form associations and work for peaceful change. Others, however, believed that only violence could overthrow the power and influence of property owners. One was the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876). Bakunin is often described as the father of terroristic anarchism, the belief that workers should destroy government institutions through violence and terror.
German philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883) argued that the working class should take control of the government and the new factories and run them democratically. But Bakunin thought that government should be destroyed altogether. Like most revolutionary theorists, he hoped for another version of the French Revolution of 1789: groups of workers seizing arms from the state, taking power, and setting up a new society of voluntary associations. This was the anarchist ideal.
The trick was to get the workers to take action. How could they launch an uprising of peasants and workers? One suggestion came from Russia, which in the second half of the nineteenth century was perhaps the least advanced country in Europe. Democratic reforms that were taking hold in Western Europe had just begun to appear in Russia. Russia's ruler, known as the czar (pronounced zahr and also spelled tsar), was an absolute monarch who was not controlled by any law and who was known for being particularly harsh. In the 1840s Bakunin suggested that workers and peasants could join forces with robbers and outlaws and serve as an example for an uprising of anarchists.
Sergei Nechayev In the 1860s Bakunin discovered another Russian anarchist named Sergei Nechayev (pronounced SER-gay Nee-CHI-ev; 1847–1882), who was one of the main supporters of violence as a way to start the revolution. Nechayev wrote a short work called Catechism of a Revolutionary (1869), possibly written with Bakunin. In it he described a fanatical revolutionary who devoted all aspects of his life to starting a revolution, giving up everything that was not connected with his cause. Nechayev put forward the idea of small groups of such fanatics (called "cells") that would attempt to start a revolution by using violence against the existing social order. Nechayev's organization was called People's Retribution (Narodnaya Rasprava in Russian). Its tactics consisted of setting fires and trying to murder government officials.
In his Catechism, Nechayev wrote that "the only revolution that could be helpful for the people would be that revolution which destroyed at its roots any elements of the state and which would eliminate all the state traditions, social order, and classes in Russia." The way to do this, he said, was to destroy all members of the existing society who might defeat the revolution. "First of all," he wrote, "you must destroy those people who are most harmful to the revolutionary organization, and such people whose sudden and violent deaths would bring the most terror to the government, shaking its might and depriving it of its most clever and energetic members."
Also in his Catechism, Nechayev wrote that a revolutionary must have "no personal interests, no dealings, feelings, attachments or property, not even a name. Everything in him is solely directed towards one exclusive concern, one thought, one sole passion: revolution." Moreover, he wrote, a revolutionary "is a merciless enemy of this world, and if he continues to live in it, that is only to destroy it more effectively."
In 1869 Nechayev murdered a young student follower who had questioned his actions; he was sent to jail in 1872 and died in prison ten years later. His "ideal" anarchist revolutionary, who would be called a "terrorist" in the twenty-first century, was not the only concept of anarchism in the nineteenth century, but it is the idea that stuck in the public's imagination. Nechayev made "terrorism" and "anarchism" mean almost the same thing.
Nechayev was one of the most extreme followers of a Russian political belief system that came to be known as Nihilism (pronounced NYE-huh-liz-uhm). The Nihilists were mainly young students who were discovering modern ideas of equality and socialism (in which all in society would ideally share equally in the products of their communal work) that came from western Europe. They felt trapped by an old social order that those in control did not want to change. The Nihilists wanted to introduce a new social organization, and they believed that a dramatic terrorist action would help.
Propaganda by deed Anarchists in the nineteenth century developed a concept called propaganda by deed. Their idea was that rather than trying to spread their ideas through writing articles and essays, they should carry out actions that people would read about in the newspaper. The murder of a high government official, for example, would attract attention and be taken seriously. The anarchists hoped that the publicity raised by their actions would encourage other people to join their cause and carry out their own "deeds."
On March 1, 1881, Czar Alexander II of Russia (1818–1881) approved a ukasz (decree) to create a limited form of legislature, the beginnings of a constitutional government. Although this was what the Nihilists had wanted, they had grown tired of waiting for reforms. That same day, a young Nihilist student named Ignnatei Grinevitski (1857–1881) threw a bomb at Alexander in St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia. The czar and his assassin were both killed. It was a dramatic example of "propaganda by deed," and it was far from the last.
Anarchism also gained supporters in other countries besides Russia. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, self-described anarchists carried out a string of political assassinations. Their goal was to show that leading political figures could be hurt and killed, just like anyone else. Among the political leaders who died:
- President Marie-François-Sadi Carnot (1837–1894) of France was assassinated on June 24, 1894, in Lyons, France, by Jeronimo Santo Caserio, an Italian anarchist. Caserio killed Carnot in revenge for the execution of another anarchist, Auguste Vaillant.
- On August 8, 1897, anarchist Miguel Angiolillo assassinated Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (1828–1897) at Santa Agueda, Spain.
- On September 10, 1898, Empress Elizabeth of Austria (1837–1898), the wife of Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916), was stabbed to death as she was boarding a ship on Lake Geneva in Switzerland by an Italian anarchist named Luigi Luccheni.
- King Umberto I (1844–1900) of Italy was shot three times on July 29, 1900, by anarchist Gaaetano Bresci. The shooting was revenge for a labor revolt that was violently crushed by one of Umberto's generals in 1898.
- President William McKinley (1843–1901) of the United States was assassinated in Buffalo, New York, in 1901 by anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pronounced SHOLE-gawz; 1873–1901).
American political and economic terrorism
The Molly Maguires
The Molly Maguires was a group of Irish coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania around 1875. They were accused of using terrorist tactics in the labor battle between miners and coal companies. (The name comes from a group of Irish peasants in the 1840s who disguised themselves in women's clothing and led attacks on their landlords.) The Molly Maguires were accused of setting fires, wrecking machinery, and committing murder to help the miners' struggle for improved pay and safer mines.
There is little doubt that the miners had a difficult life. The work was dangerous; miners often died in gas explosions and cave-ins. In 1869, for instance, more than one hundred men were killed in a mine fire in Pennsylvania. Pay was low. Miners who were seen as troublemakers were fired, and they and their families were forced out of their homes, which were frequently owned by the mining companies.
In 1875 the coal miners decided to strike, to stop working until the mining company gave in to their demands for better pay and working conditions, and it soon became violent. Strikers attacked strikebreakers hired to replace striking workers and derailed or damaged the trains that hauled the coal. The strike failed, but the Molly Maguires were blamed for encouraging violence even after the strike was over.
The president of the Reading Railroad, Franklin Gowen, had extensive interests in coal mines. Gowen hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a private detective agency known for its antiunion activities, to spy on the Molly Maguires. A Pinkerton employee, James McParlan, pretended to be a miner and joined the organization. Based on his reports, ten members of the Molly Maguires were accused of the murders of sixteen mine employees. They were prosecuted by attorneys hired by the Reading Railroad, found guilty, and hanged. The influence of the Molly Maguires soon weakened.
In 1886 the primary issue for labor unions was demanding an eight-hour workday. In Chicago, Illinois, unions went on strike for shorter hours. Labor campaigning in the nineteenth century was often not a peaceful process, and on May 3 the strike resulted in a clash with Chicago police at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company factory. Shots were fired, and one worker died.
The next day, May 4, unions held a mass meeting to protest the shooting. The site of the rally was Haymarket Square in Chicago. Police showed up, planning to break up the crowd. Suddenly, a bomb exploded, killing one policeman instantly and wounding seven others who died later. Eight men who were known anarchists were brought to trial despite the absence of any evidence linking them to the bomb. But their involvement in radical politics was enough to get them convicted. Judge Joseph Gary sentenced seven of them to death and the eighth to fifteen years in prison. Eventually, four of the men were hanged and one killed himself. In 1893 the governor of Illinois pardoned the three survivors.
Strictly speaking, the Haymarket Square incident barely qualifies as terrorism, since it was not part of an ongoing campaign and could not be linked to an organized group. But the accused men were all anarchists, and the incident reinforced the popular image of anarchists as dangerous bombers. The fact that the Haymarket Square incident began with a strike on May 1 accounts for the fact that May Day is observed as a labor holiday in many countries. (Not the United States, however, where Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September.)
Was the Haymarket Square incident actually a case of terrorism? To some people in Chicago at the time, it seemed to be one. Looking back on it, it is difficult to say. The actual person or persons behind the bombing were never identified. It seems more likely that public anger over the deaths of policemen led to the ideas of anarchism being put on trial and sentenced to death, in the form of four men who probably had nothing to do with the killings.
Assassination of McKinley
President William McKinley was shot while visiting an international fair in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901. McKinley was greeting people in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition, and a large crowd waited for a turn to shake hands with the popular president. He was guarded by three Secret Service agents, plus local police.
At a few minutes past four o'clock, a slender young man with a handkerchief wrapped around his hand approached the president. Suddenly, with a revolver he had hidden in the handkerchief, he fired two times. McKinley fell back, shot twice. The president was rushed to a hospital, where a doctor operated to repair two holes in his stomach. At first McKinley appeared to be recovering, but on the sixth day his pulse began to weaken, and he died on September 14, 1901.
McKinley's assailant was twenty-eight-year-old Leon Czolgosz (pronounced SHOLE–gawz; 1873–1901), an anarchist. Czolgosz had traveled to Buffalo from his home in Cleveland, Ohio, where he lived on the family farm with his
Polish immigrant parents. Captured at the scene of the shooting, he soon signed a confession in which he declared: "I killed President McKinley because I done my duty… . I am an anar chist, a disciple follower of Emma Goldman. Her words set me on fire." He insisted that he had acted alone.
Czolgosz said the assassination of Italy's King Umberto the previous year had inspired him. The press seized on Czolgosz's description of himself as an anarchist as evidence that there was a large conspiracy of dangerous political radicals in the United States.
McKinley's assassination led to demands for changes in the way presidents are guarded. The level of Secret Service protection provided for McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), was immediately raised. McKinley was the last publicly accessible U.S. president.
Czolgosz, having confessed, was sentenced to death. He was electrocuted on October 29, 1901, less than two months after shooting McKinley. His last words were: "I killed the president ident because he was the enemy of the good people. I did it for the help of the good people, the working men of all countries."
Emma Goldman (1869–1940)
Emma Goldman was a leading anarchist. She was born in Russia and came to the United States at the age of sixteen. She worked in a clothing factory in Rochester, New York, before moving to New York City at age twenty. There she joined the anarchist movement. She argued for terrorism as a means of bringing about an anarchist society. She also helped plot (unsuccessfully) the assassination of a leading industrialist, Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919).
Later in life, Goldman turned away from terrorism and became a tireless political organizer and lecturer. She was a leading supporter of free speech. The government took away her U.S. citizenship in 1908 as a result of her political activities and jailed her several times. She was forced to return to her native Russia in 1919. She soon left the country, protesting
its lack of civil liberties, and spent the rest of her life in several different countries, including England, France, and Germany, still working to support anarchism.
McKinley had been a popular president. His murder in the name of anarchy turned the public against the anarchist movement, and particularly against Goldman, a prominent spokeswoman for American anarchism. Anarchists could no longer rent halls for rallies, and it became difficult for Goldman to find housing. Although the word "terrorist" was not yet widely used, the reaction to anarchism after McKinley's assassination was similar in many ways to the reaction to Islamists after the attacks against New York City's World Trade Center a century later.
Anarchist assassinations end
Ironically, the success of nineteenth-century assassins led to the end of this type of terrorist attack. Terrorists discovered that when the head of the government was killed, the government did not collapse. Governments could outlive the individuals who filled particular offices, including the head of state (such as a king or president).
For some anarchists, this meant the death of anarchy. Others, however, simply decided that terrorist attacks could target anyone, including innocent bystanders. A similar shift took place in warfare. Where warfare had once been limited to uniformed armies fighting each other, in the twentieth century civilians became increasingly involved, either through bombing cities, attacks on civilian food supplies, or other strikes against nonmilitary targets.
The New Left
A new form of political organization called the New Left emerged in Europe and the United States during the 1960s. Most of its supporters were born during or just after World War II (1939–45). The New Left was a mixture of anarchism and elements of communism , a political and economic system in which the state owns all property and, in theory, distributes it to all citizens equally. It also included a reaction against authority in general, and a moral outrage against what its members saw as social injustice and inequality.
At first, the New Left in the United States was mostly college students, who marched in the streets to support civil rights (equal rights for all people, at this time African Americans in particular) or peace in Vietnam. (The Vietnam War, which was fought from 1955 to 1975, was an effort by the United States to prevent the communist government of North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam. The war caused huge protests by people who believed the United States should not be involved in another country's war.) New Left members in Europe supported similar causes. The enemy of the New Left was the established order: government officials, businessmen, and labor unions. These groups, and the people who ran them, were labeled part of "the establishment," to be distrusted and fought. The New Left wanted to build new societies based on equality and social justice.
The aims of New Left groups were different in various countries. In Europe, New Left groups saw themselves as a new, "pure" form of communism. They looked down on European communist parties, many of which worked as part of the government, as having lost their desire for revolution.
In the United States, in addition to the two causes central to the New Left, civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War, the American New Left was also strongly affected by the hippie movement. Hippies were young people who believed in complete personal freedom in social relationships. This was similar to some goals of the anarchist movement in the early twentieth century.
At the end of the 1960s, in both Europe and the United States, several small groups formed out of frustration. These groups felt that the goals of the New Left were not being met and thought terrorism would speed the revolution.
United States: The Weather Underground
In 1960, an organization named Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) formed to recruit college students in northern states. The SDS wanted to help the nonviolent African American civil rights movement in the South. In less than a decade, some members of the SDS had split off into a secret terrorist group called the Weather Underground (also known as the Weathermen). The Weather Underground was responsible for two dozen bombings, including at the U.S. Capitol building (1971) and the Pentagon (1972) near Washington, D.C.
As the war in Vietnam grew more bloody in the mid-1960s, the SDS became active in efforts to stop American involvement. These efforts mostly focused on demonstrations and picketing military installations. But protests had little effect on President Lyndon Johnson's (1908-1973) war policy, and in 1969 a small group of SDS leaders broke off and formed the Weather Underground. The Weathermen had seen the police use violence against antiwar demonstrators. They believed they had to use violence as well. Although their ideas were very different from most antiwar and civil rights protesters, they created one of the most significant American terrorist organizations.
Chronology of Weather Underground activities
- October 8–11, 1969: The Weathermen organize violent demonstrations to protest the trial of seven antiwar leaders for causing trouble at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 in Chicago. Hundreds of Weathermen fight police in the streets for four days, resulting in dozens of arrests in what is known as "Days of Rage."
- March 6, 1970: A Weatherman bomb factory in a townhouse in Greenwich Village, New York City, explodes, killing three Weathermen (Ted Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins) and destroying the house.
- May 21, 1970: Weatherman leader Bernardine Dohrn issues a statement declaring: "I'm going to read a declaration of a State of War. This is the first communication from the Weatherman Underground." She declares that "revolutionary violence is the only way" and threatens to attack "a symbol or institution of Amerikan injustice." (The misspelling of "American" is intentional. Dohrn is suggesting that the United States is similar to Nazi Germany, where "America" is spelled with a "k.")
- June 9, 1970: A bomb explodes in the headquarters of New York City police. Weather Undrground claims responsibility.
- July 26, 1970: The U.S. Army base at Presidio, in San Francisco, is bombed. Weather Underground claims responsibility.
- July 27, 1970: A New York City branch of the Bank of America is bombed. The Weather Underground claims responsibility.
- October 8, 1970: Two bombings take place at almost the same time: one at a criminal courthouse in New York City and one at the Hall of Justice in Marin County, near San Francisco, California. The Haymarket Square police statue in Chicago is also bombed.
- March 1, 1971: Weathermen plant bombs in the women's bathroom of the U.S. Senate in the Capitol building.
- May 19, 1972: A bomb is placed inside the Pentagon. The Weather Underground claims responsibility.
Although its bombings attracted widespread attention, they also led to the death of the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground failed to attract many followers, much less start a revolution as they had hoped. Instead, the violence frightened away many potential supporters, who had been sympathetic to the antiwar movement and the SDS. And the members of the Weather Underground had to spend most of their time avoiding arrest.
Italy: The Red Brigades
Formed in 1969 from student movements of the 1960s, the Red Brigades (called the Brigate Rosse in Italian) used violence to foment class warfare and revolution. The Red Brigades's targets were members of the Italian "establishment": government officials, businesspeople, and labor union leaders. Italy's military alliance with the United States (which was fighting the war in Vietnam in the year the Red Brigades formed) was another central target.
In the late 1960s, the Italian Communist Party divided into two separate wings. One wing decided to concentrate on electing members to the Italian parliament. The other wing decided to start a workers' revolution through violence. The violent wing of the party, which included many students and intellectuals, divided again in the 1970s. One side believed that political leaders were important to the revolution, that they could guide the workers in a direction that would be good for them. The other side believed in an idea called workers' autonomy. Autonomy means "independence"; people who believed in workers' autonomy thought that the Communist Party leaders should do whatever the workers wanted, rather than trying to persuade the workers to do what the leaders wanted.
The supporters of "workers' autonomy" became the Red Brigades. The best-known theorist of the Red Brigades was Antonio Negri, a professor at the University of Padua in Italy. He argued for using shooting, sabotage, strikes, and even criminal acts as a way to "deconstruct" (break down) capitalist (free-market based) society and clear the way for the revolution. This theory resembled those of the anarchists, as well as the communists.
In 1978 the Red Brigades kidnapped a former Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro (1916-1978), in a dramatic operation that left five security guards dead. He was held captive for fiftyfive days. The kidnappers demanded that the government set free seven Red Brigade members who were on trial in Turin in exchange for Moro's release. Officials launched a large-scale search for Moro and his kidnappers, but on September 5, 1978, Moro's body was dumped in the center of Rome. He had been shot to death. The kidnapping had a strong effect on Italy. Moro had been the head of Italy's leading political party, the Christian Democrats, for twenty years. The impact of his assassination on Italy has been compared to the impact on the United States of President John F. Kennedy's (1917–1963) murder.
On December 17, 1981, the Red Brigades kidnapped U.S. Brigadier General James Dozier, a senior American official in Verona, Italy. It was the first attack the Red Brigades had made against a foreigner. The kidnapping was the start of a campaign against Italian participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance among countries in North America and Western Europe, including the United States. The Red Brigades also hoped to gain international influence by kidnapping an American. Italian police freed Dozier, unharmed, the following month. After Dozier was rescued, Italian police cracked down on the Red Brigades and captured many of its leaders. Increasingly the Red Brigades began to concentrate on its battle against Italian security forces instead of its original political and social goals. The loss of its leaders caused the Red Brigades to fade from the scene by the mid-1980s.
Germany: The Baader-Meinhof Gang
Germany had a very similar group to the Weather Underground in the 1970s. The German group of political radicals called itself the Red Army Faction, but it was known to the public as the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The gang was a particularly violent group of young people. For Baader-Meinhof, the violence often seemed as important as the goals it was supposed to achieve.
The main figures in the Baader-Meinhof gang were a young couple, Andreas Baader (1947–1977) and Gudrun Ensslin (1940–1977). Baader moved to West Berlin in 1967. There he met Ensslin, who wanted to start a Communist revolution in West Germany. (Germany had been divided in two after World War II; West Germany became a capitalist democracy while East Germany adopted a Communist government.) Baader and Ensslin became romantically involved. She provided the political theories; he provided the impulse toward violence.
Like the United States, Germany in 1967 and 1968 saw many conflicts between university students and police. The fatal shooting of a young protester at a demonstration in June 1967 convinced some radicals, including Ensslin, that the protesters should respond to police violence with violence of their own.
The gang's first violent act took place on April 2, 1968, when it set time bombs in a department store in Frankfurt, Germany. A phone call claiming credit for the act said it was carried out by the "Red Army Faction." Two days later, police arrested Baader, Ensslin, and two other people and charged them with arson and endangering human life. Although the four acted as if their trial were a joke, they were convicted in October 1968 and sentenced to three years in jail. In June 1969 they were released from jail pending a review of their conviction. In November, they lost their appeal and were ordered to jail. Instead, Baader and Ensslin fled to France and Italy for three months.
Upon returning to Germany in late February 1970, Baader and Ensslin stayed in the apartment of Ulrike Meinhof (1934–1976), a journalist who was sympathetic to their cause. Meinhof was well known from her appearances on German television news programs, where she presented the radical viewpoint on whatever topic was being discussed. Soon after they returned to Germany, Baader was arrested by police and returned to jail. It was now that the terrorism truly began.
Baader escapes On May 14, 1970, Baader got a one-day leave from prison to visit a library in Berlin. During the visit, Meinhof and several other Red Brigade members helped him escape. During the breakout, they shot and wounded an elderly librarian. The press came up with the name Baader-Meinhof Gang, even though Ulrike Meinhof was not a leader in the Red Army Faction. On June 8, 1970, Baader and other gang members arrived in Jordan and joined up with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP was a nationalist group opposed to Israel (a Jewish state that had been established in 1948 on Palestinian land) that helped train other radicals from Europe. Two months later, the Palestinians were thoroughly annoyed with the Germans' behavior and sent them home.
Over the next two years, the Baader-Meinhof Gang robbed a number of banks and fought repeatedly with police. Several officers were killed in these clashes, making the gang the object of an intense manhunt. On May 11, 1972, the gang planted a bomb at the headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps in Frankfurt, Germany, in revenge for American actions in Vietnam. The explosion killed one solider and wounded thirteen. In the next few days, more bombs hurt five policemen in a police station at Augsburg, Germany, and destroyed sixty cars at a police office in Munich, Germany. The wife of a German judge who had signed arrest warrants for members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang was badly hurt by a bomb planted in her husband's car. Another bomb injured seventeen people in the headquarters of a major German media company. On May 24, 1972, gang members killed three American soldiers with a car bomb in Heidelberg, Germany.
The attacks finally slowed after June 1, 1972, when Baader was arrested in Hamburg, Germany. One week later, Ensslin was arrested, and on June 15, Meinhof was also arrested.
Over the next two years, various gang members went on trial for shootings and robberies. Many Germans had sympathy for the Baader-Meinhof Gang, while many others thought that the government should do everything possible to end terrorism in Germany. Although most gang members were in prison, convicted of crimes or waiting for a trial, the terror-ists still had a lot of public support. The police, who also had significant support, began arresting people who were not members, just for providing help to the gang.
Efforts to gain the prisoners' release In 1974 the gang leaders were charged with several murders. One of the gang members starved himself to death in November of that year. His death led to a second wave of violence to free the imprisoned gang members. Also in November 1974 the head of West Germany's supreme court was assassinated. A leading conservative politician was kidnapped and held hostage until six Baader-Meinhof prisoners were released from jail and flown to Aden, at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula in the Middle East. In April 1975 terrorists seized Germany's embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, killing two hostages. Later that night, explosives the terrorists had piled in the basement of the building accidentally went off. The kidnappers, many of them badly burned, surrendered to police. Four months later, Baader, Meinhof, and Ensslin were formally charged with four murders and fifty-four attempted murders. Their trial began in January 1976.
Five months later, depressed at facing a possible sentence of life in prison, Meinhof hanged herself in jail. On June 27, 1976, an Air France plane flying from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Paris was hijacked by terrorists. The terrorists forced the plane to fly to Entebbe airport in Uganda. (The dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin [c. 1924–], was sympathetic to terrorists.) The hijackers demanded freedom for six jailed Baader-Meinhof Gang members and threatened to kill the Jewish passengers on the plane. But before it could happen, Israeli commandos sneaked into the airport, rushed the plane, and killed the hijackers. Several hostages died, including an elderly Jewish woman.
Back in Germany, Baader and Ensslin were convicted of four murders on April 29, 1977, and sentenced to life in prison. The efforts to free them continued. In September, a well-known German businessman, Hanns-Martin Schleyer, was kidnapped. The kidnappers demanded freedom for the Baader-Meinhof leaders in exchange for Schleyer's life. While Schleyer was still being held by his kidnappers, Palestinian terrorists hijacked a West German plane with ninety-one hostages and forced it to fly to Mogadishu, Somalia, in eastern Africa. This time, West German commandos attacked the plane, killed three of the four hijackers, and freed all the hostages unharmed.
The suicide pact The news from Somalia deeply depressed the Baader-Meinhof prisoners, who agreed among themselves to commit suicide. On the night of October 17–18, 1977, Baader shot and killed himself with a pistol that had been smuggled into the prison. Ensslin hanged herself in her cell. A third shot himself and died later in the hospital. One other gang member stabbed herself several times but lived. Shortly afterward, Schleyer was murdered and his body dumped in France.
The deaths of the Baader-Meinhof leaders did not mean the end of the group's terrorism. There were a number of attacks throughout the 1980s. It was not until 1998 that a message was sent to the Reuters news agency announcing that the Baader-Meinhof Gang no longer existed. But in the end, the Baader-Meinhof Gang made very little difference beyond the deaths of its victims. Its members had only a vague vision of a future in which "the establishment" would be destroyed in favor of some new form of society. Ultimately all the gang had to offer was violence and fighting the authorities to stay out of prison.